Patient involvement in research pays dividends, says study

Involving patients in research programmes increases the likelihood of recruiting a target number of people, a study has found.

September 14, 2013

By implication, this increases the chances of a study’s success and of the project running on time and budget, said the paper’s authors from King’s College London.

The research found that studies that included collaboration with patients in designing or running the trial, initiated by researchers, were 1.63 times more likely to recruit to target than those that only “consulted” patients.

Studies created through the highest level of patient involvement, which included joint or patient-initiated collaboration and patient-controlled studies, were 4.12 times more likely to recruit the requisite number, it found.

Patient involvement may have meant that language materials used in recruitment were easier to understand or more appealing, or that patient insights helped to create studies that would be less burdensome for participants, says the paper.  

“Impact of patient involvement in mental health research: longitudinal study” analysed 374 studies registered with the Mental Health Research Network.

The authors, publishing in the September issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, argue that the study suggests researchers need to involve patients more comprehensively in research. 

“At the individual level, we know that being involved in research promotes social inclusion and provides a sense of wellbeing for patients, but this is the first time we can see that patient involvement in research is linked to higher likelihood of reaching [a] recruitment target – and as a result, study success,” said Til Wykes, senior author of the paper and co-director of the Service User Research Enterprise at the King’s Institute of Psychiatry.   

Writing on the Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health and Dementia Unit blog, Professor Wykes, who is also director of the MHRN, says that currently more than a third of clinical trials fail to reach their recruitment target.

She adds that poor recruitment meant weaker conclusions, less confidence in the size of any identified benefit and can mean important effects are missed.

Liam Ennis, researcher at Sure and co-author of the paper, said the findings suggest that “mutualism” between patients and researchers was not just an ideal, but associated with “tangible recruitment benefits”.

“Investigators may reap these rewards whilst encouraging skin-deep patient involvement to become a thing of the past,” he added.

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